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A new study was published about how likely faculty at four-year public, higher education institutions are to seek external job offers and negotiate for additional pay or benefits based on race and gender. The study was led by Jeremy Wright-Kim, assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Education, alongside Laura W. Perna, a professor of education and vice provost for faculty at the University of Pennsylvania.

In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Wright-Kim said his findings suggest that employers who expect employees to negotiate with their bosses can perpetuate inequality among faculty along racial and gender lines.

“The negotiating behaviors that we view suggest that (they) may be a lever for perpetuating inequity within the faculty, particularly when we think about race and gender and the intersection thereof,” Wright-Kim said. “This is the largest sample that we know of (that measures) specific faculty negotiation behavior across a variety of institutions.”

Wright-Kim said the analysis evaluated about 31,000 observations across 191 universities, measuring the differences in three specific negotiating behaviors across race and gender groups. The study looked at the likelihood of white women, women of Color and men of Color participating in negotiating behaviors compared to white men.

The first negotiating behavior examined in the study was faculty members seeking external job offers while holding a position at one institution. The second behavior the researchers recorded was whether those faculty members received an external job offer. Third, the study identified whether employees negotiated their current employment with their superiors and the institution’s response to those negotiations.

Wright-Kim explained the most significant finding in the study was that women of Color were the most likely to report no additional pay or benefits after negotiating their current employment.

“What’s most glaring for us was that women of Color most commonly reported no adjustment,” Wright-Kim said. “When (they) did negotiate their behavior, they were more likely than the other groups to get nothing in return.”

Wright-Kim said white women, Black men and Black women were also found to be less likely to seek external offers than white men.

According to Wright-Kim, the most common adjustments that participants across all gender and racial identities received were changes to their base salary. The study found that white men, compared with all other groups, were the most likely to receive benefits from negotiation, such as changes in salary, research support or access to research equipment. Women, by contrast, were more likely to report changes in teaching assignments following the negotiation process. 

To conduct the study, the researchers partnered with the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education, a research center housed at Harvard University that focuses on studying faculty behavior. Wright-Kim said the researchers utilized the data collected by COACHE in order to conduct their study. 

In an interview with The Daily, COACHE Executive Director Todd Benson said the organization provides their data to universities for research projects. Benson said Wright-Kim’s scholarship is the first to use COACHE’s data to examine negotiating behavior as a mechanism for inequity among faculty. 

“This is the first piece of scholarship that’s taken our data in this direction, which is why it’s so exciting,” Benson said. “If we understand the patterns of behavior around negotiation, then we can figure out why it is that some people might be benefitting more than others. And that can help us to reduce those inequities in the future if we take it seriously.”

Wright-Kim said the research shows that in order to make employment opportunities as equitable as possible, colleges and universities should collect data on how negotiating behavior impacts faculty across their departments. Wright-Kim said universities can also establish their own mechanisms to interpret school-specific data and understand how negotiation can fuel inequity. 

“Our major call is to say, at a minimum, colleges and universities need to be tracking how negotiation plays out in their departments,” Wright-Kim said. “Not only collecting data but then setting up structured processes to regularly interrogate that data to identify to which extent they’re using, intentionally or unintentionally, good negotiation to perpetuate or address inequities within their faculty.”

LSA freshman Emma Christopherson is a member of the student staff at ADVANCE. The organization focuses on promoting and maintaining diversity among current faculty at the University by focusing on four target areas: recruitment, retention, climate and leadership development. Christopherson said maintaining diverse faculty members at college campuses is essential for creating an inclusive learning environment for students.  

“I think that shared experience, whether it’s race or gender, is really important to connect with somebody, especially like a professor, which is important for students,” Christopherson said. “If your goal at a university is to have a diverse student body, your faculty needs to follow suit.”

Daily News Reporter Joanna Chait can be reached at